What’s Mark McGaughey’s advice for plant operators preparing to convert their plants over to MINDS Inc.’s asphalt plant controls?
“Forget everything you used to know,” says McGaughey, MINDS’ Director of U.S. Operations. “That’s my number one thing I like to tell plant operators before we start commissioning.”
It might sound intimidating, but it’s actually exciting. Installing MINDS’ reliable, accurate and customizable asphalt plant software suite is a transformational experience that gives plant operators the level of fine-tuned automation and control they need to get the most out of their plants. We spoke with McGaughey about what plant operators need to know about the conversion process and how to make it particularly successful.
The first question McGaughey says plant operators should ask themselves is what is their end goal. “Do you want to keep your plant running for five, 10, 20, 30 years? That determines what level of industrial automation and change that should be provided,” he says. “We’ll make recommendations to our customers based on their goals.”
The environment a plant — and its future control system — is operating is a critical factor for the installation. While some plants have done a good job from the beginning by setting up their existing plant control system in a climate-controlled environment indoors, others have their control boxes “mounted on the side of a plant out in the field,” McGaughey says. “They blow air out through filters that don’t get maintained, they’re in a dusty environment, the control panels are dirty, and dust runs into the air stream until they quit working.”
For that reason, it’s important for MINDS to understand the environment the plants operating within and the state of your equipment. Older or poorly maintained equipment, for example, may have an impact on how successful the plant automation process is. “If the equipment been in service since 2004, for example, and it’s been outdoors, those are factors. The condition of the equipment will affect how hard the install is,” he says. “For a customer to be happy with all aspects of the plant automation, we may recommend they make some changes.”
McGaughey advocates for plant operators to have their new MINDS asphalt plant controls installed in a controlled environment designed for occupancy, with air conditioning and/or heat for consistent temperature and no possibility of precipitation getting in. If the plant requires upgrades for MINDS’ asphalt plant controls to operate to their full capabilities, McGaughey notes operators may need to think dollars and cents.
After the plant’s environment is taken care of, MINDS will need information on what plant-specific controls the operator is interested in, from calibration to dust management to volumetric control, which will then be incorporated into the customized asphalt plant controls.
Once it’s time for the installation? It comes back to McGaughey’s initial advice: throw your established thinking out the window. “Oftentimes, we have someone say, ‘well, we do things this way,’ but there’s a very good possibility our controls have that process already built-in, and we just need to turn the capability on,” he says. “They’ll end up at the same result without the operator needing to have any interaction with the software. Now we can automate almost everything they used to do manually.”